[June 17, 2019] “Find a buddy. You’ve got 10 seconds,” the Drill Sergeant screamed at us as we arrived at Fort Polk, Louisiana for boot camp. Private Thibaut Lemieux, a Cajun from southern Louisiana, stood next to me and we instantly became part of the Army’s mandated buddy system.
Thibaut (pronounced t-bow) and I were inseparable throughout the remainder of boot camp. Good thing too that we never left each other’s sight. The military had recently implemented the buddy system officially because there had been too many preventable deaths. Our job was to watch our buddy for any signs of health problems (like dehydration) and stop them from doing something dangerous (like picking up an explosive).
The buddy system also prevented us from getting into trouble. We always watched out for each other. Today, the buddy system is still required. In combat, the requirement is rigidly enforced. As our Drill Sergeants used to say, “lose your buddy and you’ll get muddy.” They were referring to the combat obstacle course and the threat of running it as punishment was a big motivator.
In the U.S. Air Force, the buddy system is called “wingmen” and in the U.S. Navy, “shipmates.” Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have their own version of the buddy system but the intent remains the same; do things as a single entity, monitor each other, and help if needed. Next month my Scout Troop will be headed to Summer Camp and we insist upon the buddy system.
The buddy system has a number of advantages:
- Helps promote friendship.
- Builds trust and confidence.
- Provides feedback on behavior.
- Creates a sense of belonging.
- Develops skills at bonding and social interaction.
- Results in positive attitudes.
- Teaches responsibility and leadership skills.
- Promotes self-control, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
- Improves communication with peers.
- Decreases behavior problems.
- Teaches collaboration.
- Reduces stress and anxiety.
- Increases peer acceptance.
The buddy system works and works well. Use it and the results will immediately become self-apparent. Private Thibaut Lemieux and I have been “buddies” ever since that day long ago.